"I had no trouble settling in, which might be partly due to the fact we have a number of Brazilian players here in Portugal. The language, the climate, and even the food are identical. I feel really happy here."
Listening to Nene in the course of an exclusive FIFA.com interview, the main factors behind the 25-year-old Brazilian’s contentment with his situation at Liga Sagres outfit CD Nacional immediately become clear. Funchal, the city of 100,000 on the paradise island of Madeira, has rapidly turned into his true home.
From Brazil to Portugal
Nene, whose given name is Anderson Miguel da Silva, joined the professional ranks in January 2006 with Santa Cruz in the Brazilian Serie A. Just a year later, the Sao Paulo-born striker switched to Cruzeiro Belo Horizonte, where he continued to turn heads with a string of sparkling displays.
"As a Brazilian, I shared the dream of playing in a major European league. CD Nacional have opened the door to me in Portugal and given me the chance to continue my development," the player explained, summing up the reasons for his decision to cross the Atlantic.
The 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in) tall Nene has emerged as a roaring success with Nacional, who are currently well-placed in fourth in the Portuguese top flight. In his first season in Europe, the South American has fired an impressive 19 goals in 26 matches, putting him top of the nation’s scoring charts.
"The way the game’s played here is very different compared to Brazil. It’s much faster here, but a lot more measured in Brazil, where the emphasis is on good technique," Nene explained.
The transition from the cultured and refined Brazilian game to the pacier variant in Portugal has hardly hampered the player’s progress. Quite the opposite in fact, as he appears to revel in the footballing environment he now calls home.
"It’s going well this year, although 2008 was even better," he told FIFA.com. "I hope I continue to deliver until the end of the season. I’m just delighted to be playing here in Portugal. I never thought it would go as well as this. I never imagined being the league’s top scorer in my first season in Europe."
Nene has made a huge contribution to his club’s current drive for a place in European competition next term. With five games remaining, Nacional are fully ten points clear of Leixoes SC and can justifiably expect to be mixing it on the continental stage in 2009/10.
"The club have a host of talented youngsters, who are still in their first season here,” the Brazilian declared. "We’re playing for a place in the Europa League, and we came within an ace of a place in the cup final. I think we’ve all had a very good season so far. Our target now is a place in the Europa League."
Dreaming of the Seleção
At 25 years of age, the striker’s goals and dreams for the future remain lofty and ambitious.
"My life goal is the Brazilian national team," the player said, determination written across his features. "If I one day manage to realise my childhood dream and represent my country, it would certainly be one of the greatest achievements of my life. It would mean a huge amount to me, and I’ll never abandon my pursuit of it."
It would come as a surprise if Brazil boss Dunga had yet to hear the name Nene. And if he continues his rich vein of form, it can only be a matter of time before the biggest names on the European club scene come knocking for the man in the Nacional No18 shirt. However, such matters are far from Nene’s thoughts at the present time.
"I don’t find it easy to talk about that, as we live in the present and I’m trying hard to concentrate on that. I’m sure we’ll all sit down at some point in the future and see if there’s a club prepared to open the door to another European country, and which might be a better club for me personally,” Nene guardedly observed, although he was prepared to be more definite about one thing: “Real Madrid are my dream club."